After Henry VIII’s death the country continued in religious turmoil through the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I, swinging from Protestant to Catholic and back again.
During the whole of this time, nothing was done to improve the roads, and even during the long and relatively stable reign of Elizabeth the First, nothing was donr .
It seems impossible to our modern minds, but this is simply how things were. Improving roads was apparently beyond either the organisation, the finances or perhaps the needs of society.
Incidentally, Henry instigated the first ever postal service. It was for the exclusive use of the king and involved riders who would take messages to destinations across the nation.
These riders could presumably travel across country, but the roads on which carts with goods travelled continued to be dreadful.
The landscape was very different from today. Apart from the grand houses of the landed gentry, only a few areas in towns and villages were enclosed, so the patchwork of fields and hedgerows that we know today simply didn’t exist. Roads consisted of trackways across open countryside.
They had no structure or foundation so they followed the firmest ground. Where it was relatively stable the road would be narrow but where it was softer, it became deep muddy ruts. And when floodwaters rendered it impassable, the waggons, carts, and laden horses went wide and struggled past each other using the nearest firm spots. Sometimes, the road would become hundreds of yards wide. In winter such areas would often become impassable and all travel would cease until the following year when the weather improved.
The world of long-distance coach travel
The first roads
The Celts were trading across Europe and although nothing remains of their roads, they must have followed fixed routes
The Romans built roads, famously straight. These are the first roads that we in England are familiar with
After the Romans left, our roads fell into disrepair. Find out what happened
After the dissolution of the monasteries, even the church’s work ended
During the Stuart period the first beginnings of improvement appeared
The first proposal to improve Britain’s roads
The first person to take active steps to improve the roads
As pressure for improved transport links grew, this engineer made a real difference
Perhaps the most famous roadmaker, His method is still essentially in use today
Britain’s roads at last allow fast long-distance travel
Anecdotes written by people who actually travelled on the coaches
The coachmen, the inns, the coach proprietors - they’re all here. Come in and meet them
Britain’s roads were pretty impassable for most of our history. Coach travel was very difficult until they improved
Wheeled transport evolved over many years. Find out how coaches developed
Sources and information about how I came to create this website
Home Page of the Coaching Website
The Tudor monarchs - Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth I
An unmade road in wet weather